A Guide to Applying for Graduate Assistant Roles


Applying to be a graduate assistant is one of the best ways to gain funding for a master’s degree. A typical position will cover your tuition and pay you a stipend. Unfortunately, it’s by no means easy to land a position — a huge number of other students who need to find a way to pay for graduate school are trying to do the exact same thing. The good news is there are things you can do to improve your chances.

1. Don’t Wait Until the Deadline

Show universities how much you want the graduate assistant role by applying as early as you can. The likelihood is someone will read your application right after you submit it, which will mean the faculty will be thinking about you that much sooner.

2. Apply for Multiple Roles

There’s no reason why you should feel limited only to assistant roles in your department. There are often assistantships available unrelated to any major, such as in campus activities. If you’re able to put forth a strong argument as to why you’re suitable for a role, it could be yours. Plus, just thinking about how to frame your applications will give you practice at selling yourself — a skill you’ll need throughout your career.

3. Connect with Faculty Members

If you’re applying for a master’s program at the same university as you currently attend, you have the opportunity to be on close terms with everyone in the faculty. Start networking immediately: introduce yourself to faculty members and let them know your long-term study goals — these are the people who have a say in who receives the assistantship.

It’s a little more difficult to form relationships with faculty if you’re applying for a graduate program at a different university, but it’s still far from impossible. Reach out to professors and others involved in your program to discuss your interests and ask about their research.

4. Include a Cover Letter

If a cover letter is optional, always include one anyway. It’s difficult to explain the full extent of your experience with a resume alone and impossible to express how excited you are for the chance of landing a role. Ask someone with strong writing skills to check your cover letter — preferably someone who knows what departments are looking for in an assistantship candidate. If your university has a writing centre, this is a top choice.

5. Practise for the Interview

A shortlist of candidates will receive an invitation to an interview. Make sure your interview goes well by practicing your technique beforehand. Consider what kinds of questions the interview is likely to ask and come up with some answers. For instance, you’ll likely need to explain why you find the work interesting, what you’re passionate about, and (if the role involves assisting in research) what methodologies you’ll use.

Once you’ve been accepted for a graduate program (hopefully with an assistantship!), you’ll need somewhere to live. Being a graduate student and holding an assistant position will be much more challenging than working toward a bachelor’s degree, but you’ll find it easy to focus, work hard, and relax at Foundry Princess. Our Queen’s University off-campus housing provides you with a private bedroom in a suite and onsite amenities like a rooftop patio, swimming pool, and fitness centre. Join the waitlist to hear about available spaces before anyone else.

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